[23 June 2009]
Ed Harcourt is a study in contrast. His 2001 debut, Here Be Monsters, garnered him a Mercury Prize nomination, but Harcourt was quick to distance himself from the legions of bed-wetting Elliott Smith wanna-bees glutting the singer-songwriter genre, rooting his work equally in baroque British pop music and droning Pärt soundscapes. The six songs that comprise Russian Roulette were initially recorded as a set of home demos, but a weekend with producer Dave Lynch found the solo recordings embellished with strings, drones and loops equally informed by Harcourt’s avant-pop leanings and recent soundtrack work for the likes of S. Darko. The six songs are surreal and psychedelic. Radiohead and Queen are touchstones, as are the Commodores on the closing Girl with the One-Track Mind. Alternately soaring and wrist-slitting, Russian Roulette is both a powerful statement and a fine harbinger of a glorious full-length to come.